Like a first date, there's a level of anxiety about running someplace new, especially if you are a creature of habit. But sometimes, those "side-street" runs turn out to be the best.

Running somewhere new is kind of like going on a first date – sweaty palms, thumping heart rate, a little shaky just before the doorbell rings. Those first meeting thoughts: Did I brush my teeth? Does my outfit match? Where can I “go” if I gotta “go”? Okay, that last one probably isn’t on your first date checklist, but I bet it IS on your first RUN checklist.

I recently spent seven days in Dublin, Ireland. Ireland wasn’t on my “must travel to” locations list, but as an after-thought, it was a pretty good trip and very much enjoyed, especially the running. I’d recommend the Irish scene for both the city lover and the natural beauty seeker. Oh, and the runner!

Like a first date, there’s always a level of anxiety about running someplace new, especially if you are a creature of habit and routine. But sometimes, those runs turn out to be the best runs.

My first morning in Ireland, I strapped on my trainers, walked out the front door, did my warm-up routine, stood there for a few seconds and thought, “Okay, NOW what?” I hadn’t looked at a map, I hadn’t scoped out the neighborhoods. And what if I did have to “go”? Very fortunately, the hotel was right next to Dublin’s Grand Canal, complete with a 10k footpath (although there were more than a couple of street crossings – ask me about that “which side of the road am I running and are you driving” thing).

My first run in Dublin turned out to be a pretty good one. Temperatures hovered around 58-60 degrees (F, not C). And I got lucky with the route. But the best way to discover a new place is to vary where you run. So before run #2, a map was required. And I do love me a good map.

When you’re on a trip, there is no better way to discover things about where you are than on foot. The adventurousness of most runners allows us that side-street mentality, to go where the buses and the tour guides and even the taxi drivers might not suggest. I’m not talking about dangerous places, but rather rarely traveled places to rarely seen things.

I’ll admit my canal run was a pretty lucky find. Oh, and my hotel was called the Grand Canal Hotel. Go figure.

Day two I found myself at Ringsend Park doing a speed session. Apparently, Ringsend Park is where half of Dublin does its speed work. Day three, it was a long run in Phoenix Park, which is larger than Central Park and has both bike AND runner paths, along with miles of well-groomed, well-maintained grass trails. MILES!

My pre-day two reconnaissance had provided me with a wealth of knowledge about where I was. Parks, runners, bathrooms, the safest routes from point A to point B, and even the best time of day to set out to run in a city setting.

Of my seven mornings in Dublin, five of them were filled with sights and scenes most non-runners would never have. I got to run IN Dublin Bay, which at low tide (at 5:30 a.m.) is empty of water. Bet most non-running tourists didn’t know that. And one park was situated next to the U.S. Embassy. Nobody was home at the time; they were all out running.

Had I done more pre-planning, I may have even been able to locate a race. Ireland has a very healthy running community and race scene. There were at least five races the weekend we were there and all within two hours of the city.

A good friend turned me on to a new tourism phenomenon known as sight-jogging. Dublin has such a service, although I did not sign up for the tour. These tours included standard sightseeing, specialty runs and even custom private run/tours. Much of the anxiety of running someplace new is removed, thanks to a well-trained running Julie from Love Boat. Check out www.sightjoggingdublin.com as I’m sure there are other cities with similar tour groups.

So no matter where you are… there you are. You might as well embrace your running prowess and side-street mentality with a good run in a foreign land. And if it’s your first time, wear something clean, brush your teeth and know where to “go” before you “go”.

Former Lock Haven University stand-out runner Andrew Shearer is the Middletown Athletic Club secretary/treasurer.